Joliet Central’s Jojo McNair had tears in his eyes and a strange new feeling in his heart.
“I’m still in shock,” said McNair, who had never won a high school football game.
It was just moments after the senior wide receiver grabbed the game-winning touchdown pass. That’s something that happens a few times a month at most high schools, or at least once or twice a season. For the Steelmen, it was a catch that will live on forever in school history as the miraculous grab that ended a 57-game losing streak.
Quarterback Zach Wisneski, only a junior but a three-year starter, threw the 30-yard touchdown with 29 seconds to play that gave Joliet Central a 38-35 win over visiting Plainfield Central in front of a capacity crowd on Saturday.
“I knew I was going [McNair’s] way,” said Wisneski. “He’s the best damn wideout in the state. I have more trust in him than anyone, I knew he was going to catch it.”
Joliet Central led by 14 points early and by 11 late in the third quarter. Plainfield Central, which has lost 32 consecutive games, stormed back to take a 35-31 lead with 7:05 to play.
“I had doubt that we were going to come back and win this game,” said McNair. “My teammates kept me up. Marcus Stone kept telling me to keep playing and that I would win this game for us.”
The Steelmen (1-3, 1-3 Southwest Prairie) stormed the field after the victory. Players and coaches were crying, an understandable emotional release after years of futility.
“I don’t even know what this means,” Wisneski said. “Everything.”
McNair was sensational. He played wide receiver, running back and defensive back. He had eight catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns and six carries for 90 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s Mr. Everything,” said Joliet Central coach Brett Boyter. “Any big time school would be very lucky to have a kid like that play for them so I hope he gets on the radar. If he’s not catching someone’s eye today I don’t know what he has to do.”
Wisneski finished 20-for-30 for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Frank Fiegel had six catches for 78 yards.
“I’m so happy for the kids and the parents,” Boyter said. “To see our guys compete and finally get the outcome on the scoreboard that we wanted…I don’t have the words, I really don’t.”
Joliet West and Joliet Central had combined sports teams from 1993 until 2010. This was the first victory for Central since the split in 2010. The state record for consecutive losses is 63, held by West Carroll.
The Wildcats only completed five passes but did plenty of damage on the ground. Quarterback Marcus Hayes rushed 17 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Lovell Houston had 20 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
“We knew they couldn’t throw the ball well,” said McNair. “We just had to stop [Hayes] and we’d win the game. We stopped him at the end.”
Boyter, who knows what it’s like to experience a losing streak, had great sympathy for the Wildcats (0-4, 0-4).
“The toughest part about today is that there had to be a loser,” said Boyter. “I know that’s a real tough loss for them to take but I think they will get their W soon, within the next few weeks.”